Toxic work environments and burnout.

Don’t stick around in a job that’s hurting you.

Oh wow. It’s been 2 years since I last posted. I started this blog wanting to help other people thinking I’d post something every month. It didn’t quite work out that way. I have a few drafts I’ve started, but I never get around to finishing them.

So what’s happened these past two years?

Well the boyfriend I mentioned in the last post broke up with me a week or two later. That was one of the main reasons I didn’t post for a while. It was too upsetting for me after writing how amazing my boyfriend was for loving me despite my mental illness, to them have him tell me he didn’t love me a couple weeks later. Not only that, but we broke up over text. Safe to say that hit me pretty hard.

Six months later I quit my job at the nursery.

The two events were related. I’d devalued my worth and my happiness while in my relationship. I was happy at that job for the first three months or so that I worked there and then I started to hate it. It had always been my desire to get my teaching qualification recognised in Germany. But then I figured, I’m in a relationship now; who cares about the teaching degree? In a few years I’ll probably take leave to start a family and become a stay at home mum. There’s no point going to all that effort to have my teaching qualification recognised and then to go on maternity leave. My boyfriend earns more anyway. Why should I bother? It makes no sense to leave now and find a job only to leave it after a couple of years.

But then my boyfriend was gone and so were the excuses. Then things just got worse at work. A new team leader came in and I was more and more unhappy. The other staff were unhappy too. I started suffering from burnout and was having anxiety every time the director came to visit.

My colleague was my saving grace. We had to give three months notice to the quarter. It was late June and I had a week left to give my three months notice before I was contractually obligated to work another six. I’d already started applying for jobs, but hadn’t found anything and was unprepared to quit without having another job lined up. My colleague and I were cleaning the kitchen after serving the kids lunch and I just casually asked her if she missed her old job as a nurse. From there the conversation progressed to my unhappiness at work and she asked, ‘Could you see yourself working here another six months?’

I broke down into tears, ‘I can’t even see myself working here another three.’

‘So quit. Don’t wait till you find something new. You’re a recognised educator now. You’ll find something quickly.’

So I did. After submitting my resignation it was so clear that it was the right decision. Little did I know I was the third person out of nine staff to quit that quarter (my colleague who encouraged me to quit being once of the others). My boss was absolutely livid. She called me in to meet with her and pretty much verbally abused me. The way she tore into me with her to me was so hurtful and made me even more terrified of her than I already was.

I worked there for another three months as contractually obligated but I spiralled quickly back into depression and picked up old habits. I was self-harming daily and only survived by counting down the days until I was out.

I wish it was a rarity to be in a toxic work environment, but that was the third toxic work environment I’ve worked in. You’ve probably worked in a toxic environment too or know someone who has. It’s so common that we frequently see it represented in film. Think of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ or ‘The Proposal’ or even briefly in ‘The Santa Clause’. Our managers, bosses, directors often forget that we are people and that we have emotions. They treat us like machines. It’s all about output. 100% isn’t good enough. Give a little more.

If you ever find yourself in a toxic work environment, get out as fast as you can. Don’t let burnout become your life because someone expects you to be a cog in a machine. Don’t let workplace bullies belittle and degrade you. If you dread going to work because you’re afraid of your boss or you are self-harming in the staff toilets because you can’t bare to work there another day, then don’t. Send in your resignation.

By the way, my colleague was right. I did quickly find a job. It’s one of the blessings of working in a field with a high demand; there’s always a job waiting. I sent in exactly two job applications before I got an offer. I now have an amazing boss and a more relaxed work environment. Working in the nursery people thought I spent all day playing with children. I didn’t. I spent the day giving more than 100% out of fear my boss would see me idle for a few minutes. She did once. I was sitting on the floor while waiting for a child to bring me a new book after I’d just read her one. I wasn’t working hard enough for her.

I now work in after school care. We all understand the importance of leaving the children to play by themselves once in a while. I’ve never been in trouble for ‘not working’. In fact, my boss likes to joke sometimes about how simply watching children play is sometimes part of our job. It’s not to say that I spend all day just watching children play, in fact I have quite a high work ethic. But when I’m not planning for the day, dealing with disagreements or asking a child what they did on the weekend, sometimes I do just watch the kids play or talk to a colleague and that’s ok.

I love my job. But I know it’s just a stepping stone. My last day will be very bitter sweet. And that last day is coming sooner than I first expected.

Why?

Well this girl met somebody else and has been in a healthy, stable relationship for nine months to the day. He’s encouraged me to get my teaching qualification recognised here in Germany and in 2022 I’d like to get married and start the final stage to become a fully qualified teacher in Germany (a 1.5 year compulsory traineeship).

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